The controversy surrounding abortion rights often makes it seem like the country is seriously split right down the middle about whether or not women should have the right to choose to terminate their own pregnancies. The issue is emotional and controversial for anti-choicers, but a new survey delved into how people really feel about abortion, and it turns out that attitudes are shifting about legal abortion, especially among young people.
Although this hasn’t always been the case, the new survey, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute, or PRRI, shows that the more people are educated about abortion, the more they believe that women should have the right to do what they want or need for their bodies and lives. Respondents to the survey between the ages of 18 and 29 years old were more likely to have changed their views on abortion in recent years in favor of abortion rights. In that same group, 25 percent of the survey respondents said that they had become more supportive of a woman’s right to choose, while only 9 percent had become less supportive.
Older people are more stubborn about their political views, according to the survey. They were overall less likely to report having changed their minds about the legal procedure, and if they did, they were more likely to have shifted towards opposing legal abortion.
The poll also asked the respondents about their moral and ethical beliefs about abortion, and again, there was a huge difference among generations. Fifty-four percent of Americans said that abortion went “against their personal beliefs” and 44 percent said that it did not. Of that 54 percent who said that abortion violated their beliefs, 60 percent of them were older, and only 44 percent were in the 18-to-29 age group.
Others were able to separate their personal beliefs from the politics of abortion, with 34 percent of people saying that although they thought that abortion went against their moral and ethical beliefs, they did believe that women should have the right to choose in “most or all cases.”
PRRI CEO Robert Jones said in a statement accompanying the poll that he believes the disparity between older and younger people has to do with younger people moving away from religion, which is backed up by other research. According to the Pew Research Center, white evangelicals across the board have consistently opposed abortion, while other groups such as “mainline Protestants” and Catholics are more divided when it comes to their beliefs about abortion rights. But most religions are losing younger members, except for Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists. So unlike older generations, which might be guided by solely by religion, younger people are able to see abortion as a political and civil rights issue. Jones said in a statement:
It might not just have to do with religion, although the poll was conducted by a group that studies religious groups of Americans and what they believe. It could also have to do with shifting attitudes about sex and contraception use overall. Pregnancy rates among younger people are also down, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and most experts believe that this is connected to better access to contraception and less stigma around having sex in the first place. However, these low teen pregnancy rates change depending on race.
Hispanic and black women are twice as likely to get pregnant before the age of 19 than white women. Although one in four American women will get an abortion in her lifetime, rates of abortion among women of color are also higher than white women, according to Guttmacher. Rates of abortion are also declining, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Still, with all of this data about pregnancy rates and views on abortion, it seems like when young people can talk about sex and feel comfortable buying condoms or using another form of birth control, they end up having safer sex, which can result in a decline of both teen pregnancy and abortion rates. And they also, according to this new poll, believe that women should have a right to do what they wants with their bodies.
Despite all of this good news about pregnancy and abortion rates, politicians are still set on revoking a woman’s access to safe abortions by passing some of the most restrictive regulations about how and when women can get an abortion. And the Trump administration has publicly stated that one of its goals is overturning Roe v. Wade. But if Republicans and Democrats want to win younger voters in the next elections, they might want to rethink their stance and give women the health care they need.